The Zinner party was last night, but preparations began a week or two ago when I realized I had accumulated some Zins that needed consuming. I had been lured by a cellar sale on BPWine that featured a ton of Turley wines from different vineyards at really attractive prices. By the time I pulled the trigger, the best values appeared to be a 2001 Duarte Vineyard (Contra Costa County) and a 2003 Pesenti Vineyard (Paso Robles). Add to that my recent successful effort to corner the market on Mauritson Cemetery Zinfancel,a stash of Talty Zins, both Estate and Felice Connolly bottlings, and a really intriguing 2009 Gracianna.
Supporting my decision to have a drink-down was the recent posting about drinking old Zin--sometimes these wines have a narrower window of drinkability, or at least prime enjoyment.
I needed a dish to go with and found one through Snooth's partnership with Fine Cooking--beef short ribs braised in red wine. Add some slowly cooked polenta and a vegetable and I thought this dinner would be worthy of inviting my favorite Zinophiles. Of course, that meant more bottles--Chuck and Anne never show up empty handed, and Aaron and his wife Anne were the first to give me a bottle of Turley a couple years ago. Then I had to include my now-retired supervisor Byron and his wife Jan, and guess what he's been doing with his time?
Sadly, Anne and Aaron had to cancel at the last minute, leaving me wondering if 11 1/2 pounds of spare ribs would prove to be my Waterloo.
That's them marinating. Well. some of them. Everyone else cleared out of the house for a few hours on Sunday while I had the kitchen to myself. I had this crazy idea that by doing a slow cooked braise I would avoid the usual last minute frenzy of every dinner party I have ever thrown. Heck, I even had time to take pictures of the ribs (again, some) before they went in the oven in their braising liquid.
That's a quarter of the ribs. But no one cares about that! What about the wine?
Byron and Jan arrived first, with a bottle of 2011 Opolo from Paso Robles. I had already opened the Turleys and was sipping the 2001 Duarte. It was very silky, had refreshing acid but definitely not vinegary. I was surprised that it wasn't more jammy, but my experience of Turley is fairly limited. Turley has claimed that old vines can give the intensity of fruit while maintaining balance and structure. I wonder if this was past its prime, and when that prime was, but I think that the prime probably wasn't a whole lot better, just probably a bit more in your face with the fruit.
I poured the Turleys for the guests and refilled myself with the Pesenti. Definitely a warmer, jammier style, but maybe that was from being two years younger, with more of the fruit intact. Big, but still not actually out of balance. Also very silky. Hard to say which I liked more. I'm not going to say these are absolutely my favorite Zins, but they do rank highly. To my thinking, not quite as chiseled as the Mauritson Rockpile bottlings, but they capture something that Zin does really well, which is give you a ton of fruit without (necessarily) being out of whack. Paul Draper at Ridge has said you can't shy away from ripeness with Zin, but you have to manage the rest.
The Duarte clocked in at 15 % alcohol and the Pesenti at 16% but neither tasted hot.
We opened the Opolo, which clocked in at 16%. Chuck arrived with a bottly of 2009 Talty Filice Connolly, which was the lightweight of the group at 14.7%. We put it aside, thinking three bottles of potent stuff would be enough. the Opolo was sweeter tasting, jammier and quite ripe, but also not particularly hot. I liked it, but I can see it's not built for the long haul and not aimed at the Old World wine drinker. What it is is just uncomplicated pleasure. It's rich and mouth-filling.
Hours later, with ribs piled on polenta--actually, the rib bones had almost all fallen out--and piles of spicy broccolini put away, we were all still thirsty. Popped the cork on that 2009 Talty Filice. I have always compared this vineyard's wines to an older, attractive woman in a silk dress at a formal event. It doesn't have to proclaim itself or convince you with any garish display, instead it just insinuates itself in your senses subtly until you just sit back and marvel. Another big-framed, Marilyn Monroe of a wine was not going to get any attention after all these hours and that much food, but we all just couldn't stop drinking and drained this bottle in about five minutes.
Here's the lineup at the end of the night: